Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #246

The science fantasy month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with three more stories (one short story, one novelette, and one novella). Where the last two issues focused (in my opinion) on AI and apocalypses respectively, these stories feel a bit more about corrupt systems and violence to me. Each features a world where things…well, they work, to some extent. Unless they don’t. There is a balance, but it’s not a balance that benefits everyone. It requires some people to forego their freedom, to be subject to violence and perhaps death at the whims of some larger power or purpose. In each, there is a resistance to just letting things go the way they have been. And in each, the result is much different, showing how these systems deal with threats, and how much people are willing to risk to escape them. To the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Quick Sips - Terraform SF February 2018

There's a lot to enjoy with Terraform's February lineup, which includes four short stories (including a SFF short in translation). As always, the themes vary quite widely, from climate change to authoritarianism to death to robots in love. And also as always, the stories are short, sharp, and reveal near-futures that offer more in warnings than perhaps they do in optimism. These are stories to provoke thought and discussion, yet, but also action, to get people up and protesting, to resist the urge to let things go, to take the safe path that heads directly for corruption. The stories are about hard truths, and having the strength to face them. So let's get to the reviews!

Monday, February 26, 2018

Quick Sips - Heroic Fantasy Quarterly Q35

The first issue of Heroic Fantasy Quarterly has landed and brought with a trio if fantasy novelettes and a trio of poems. The stories are a mix of historical fantasy (with a new Carvajal story and what could be the beginning of a series of Victorian-era investigations) and second-world fun. The poetry is rather narrative, revealing battlefields of various sorts, whether literal or more symbolic. There’s dragons, monsters, demons, and usurpers to deal with, and the pieces as a whole show characters trying to make things right, trying to lead and to follow their own hearts. It’s a nice mix of pieces, and before I give too much away, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Jereme Peabody

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Checking in with Short SFF Reviewing - early 2018 edition

I wrote a version of this post late in 2017, when I was not in a great headspace to do it. My own journey into and through short SFF reviewing is...complicated and full of some rather intense feelings, so please excuse me (and also you’re welcome) for not posting that and instead probably having a drink and venting to my partner instead (maybe petting a cat?). I have weird feelings writing something like this, because I dislike reducing things, and I know that no matter how complete I try to be, I’ll miss a lot of people doing amazing work and if those people see this post, it might hurt. I know from experience (a certain post still haunts me because of how it struck me and continues to strike me) that it’s an awful feeling. But I do want to take a moment to check in with short SFF reviewing, because I love it and because I think it’s important, and because I want to cheer a bit at some of the things I’ve been noticing.

Mainly, I want to take a moment to collect here a taste of what’s out there, to list some of the amazing projects where people are reviewing short SFF. Some of these things are very new, but for me it paints a much fuller and more vibrant picture of what’s going on in the reviewing field. So first, a list (fyi, all of these people qualify as Fan Writers if you’re looking for people to maybe nominate for Hugos. I've also included links where I could find them on where you can support these people and their work):

A.C. Wise does amazing work with Words for Thought at Apex Magazine (as well as Women to Read at The Book Smugglers and even more work at her blog). Her reviews are deep, considered, and substantial, and she is a champion of short SFF and short SFF reviewing. (ko-fi)

Brandon O’Brien has begun The Jewelry Box at Strange Horizons, which looks at short fiction and poetry (something I am so excited to see). It’s very new but already has me hooked, and I can’t wait for more. (Patreon, ko-fi)

Bogi Takács is a phenomenal reviewer of long and short SFF, and works prolifically both on eir blog, Bogi Read the World, and on Twitter with #diversestories and #diversepoems (again, I love to see poetry reviews). (Patreon, ko-fi)

Maria Haskins has a monthly recommendation/review column called Salute Your Shorts at Barnes & Nobles SFF site, spinning out of her tireless work on her blog, and it casts a wide net, capturing the essence of a lot of excellent short SFF. (ko-fi)

Vanessa Fogg’s It’s a Jumble blog has been running for a while now, and I always love to see her insights into stories.

Ada Hoffmann runs Autistic Book Party, which looks at SFF works of all lengths, including a lot of short SFF. The reviews look at representation of autism as well as larger themes within works and are in depth and are just all around invaluable. (Patreon)

SFF Reviews is a relatively recent venture from Dr. Sara L. Uckelman and Sarah Grace Liu, among others, and brings a whole team of reviewers together to look at an impressive number of short SFF venues and stories. They’re releasing daily content now, and are very much worth checking out.

Natalie Luhrs’ In Short brings a sharp and critical eye to look at a number of short SFF stories. It’s also always worth it to check out the larger blog, Pretty Terrible, and the links roundups and other coverage of SFF as a field. (ko-fi)

Short & Sweet is a excellent column from forestofglory (who also does recommendations on her blog) at Lady Business, and covers a great range of stories, often focusing on positive SFF stories. (ko-fi)

There’s also Short Business at Lady Business as well, which is run by bookgazing and which provides a great range of reviews.

Jason Sanford has started #JasonReadsShortStories on Twitter and it is a great source for a lot of reviews/recommendations, set around the goal of reading/reviewing a short a day. These are also being collected at his blog in monthly posts. (Patreon)

Inspired in part by the above, A. Merc Rustad is collecting A Few Favorite Fictions at their blog, Robots With Keyboards. Lots of awesome thoughts. (Patreon, ko-fi)

My own work both here at Quick Sip Reviews and at The Book Smugglers with X Marks the Story is a lot of my own contribution to the field. (Patreon, ko-fi)

And there are many, many more talented reviewers and recommenders out there that I am missing but this might be a good place to start. I am aware that many amazing reviewers aren’t as active or have lost their venues, too (K. Tempest Bradford at io9, Gillian Daniels at Fantastic Stories, and Haralambi Markov’s Innumerable Voices at Tor are a few that spring to mind). Which is partly why I am so happy to see more paying venues for short SFF reviews, and more short SFF reviewers able to try and fund themselves through Patreon, ko-fi, and more. Because reviewing/recommending does take a lot of time and energy and skill and it’s sort of important to eat and have a place to live.

And, of course, there are still venues around like Tangent and Rocket Stack Rank that I don’t often mention or like to highlight because of my own deep ideological differences and grievances with both places.

I could go on and on about short SFF reviewing and my particular approach to it. I’m not going to right now. It’s messy, and it leads me to the occasional Twitter rant, but for now I want to just leave this list here and say that I’m humbled to be able to read so many excellent thoughts by such a diverse and wonderful group of reviewers. I think the field can be even larger, and I’m so excited to see the ways that it might grow further in the coming months and years. If you ever want to start your own reviews, I welcome you and hey, I even have a post about that. If you just want to check out what’s being written about current short SFF around the internet, that’s fine too. Thanks for checking in.



Friday, February 23, 2018

Quick Sips - Apex #105

The two original stories from February’s Apex Magazine mix hope and fear, rules and confinement. They show two very different takes on isolation and regulation. In one, characters push against a system that stifles and oppresses, that denies and demands sacrifice when none might be necessary. It shows the drive for freedom and the joy and hope that can produce. In the others, characters push against a system that might be the only thing standing between them and an unknown devastation, that demands sacrifice when none might be necessary but when it might indeed be necessary as well. It shows the drive for freedom and the terror and tragedy that can produce. These are two very different stories that take two very different looks at the unknown, and it makes for a fascinating one-two punch of short SFF. Let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Justin Adams

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #245

Science Fantasy Month continues at Beneath Ceaseless Skies with a special double issue, featuring four stories the bend genres and expectations. And these stories look very much at worlds that have suffered. That have gone through some sort of disaster or apocalypse or major fucking event that have left them more damaged. And the stories explore these broken worlds, revealing how that damage was done, and why, and in some instances how it can be healed (but in most of them it's more about how they cannot be). These are stories of people struggling to survive and, more than that, struggling to find meaning in places where bare survival often takes every possible effort. But they're about reaching for more, and perhaps helping each other get to someplace better. To the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Quick Sips - Uncanny #20 [February stuff]

Uncanny Magazine lands with four original stories and two poems in its February release. And throughout the works the theme I think I feel plays through is visibility. Is release. In most of the pieces, there are characters who are struggling against a system, against a world and culture, that has erased them. That has covered up uncomfortable pasts. That have demanded that those who are different censor themselves and constrain themselves so as not to offend the dominant. And the stories explore how the characters push back against that, how they are seen, how they are freed. In some, that freedom comes with a heavy price, with the destruction of something, maybe everything. And yet the stories seem to ask if that destruction might actually be necessary, to wipe away the corruption and the abuse. To unravel the mess of hurt and fear and exploitation. It’s an issue that covers science fiction, fantasy, and horror, and does a great job of giving fans of SFF a lot to experience. To the reviews!

Art by Tran Nguyen

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

X Marks the Story - February 2018

Hello! My latest column for The Book Smugglers is now live! It's full of (mostly) recent short SFF that I loved, so be sure to go and check that out. For those who just want the recs, here's a list of the stories I featured:

“A Snow, A Flood, A Fire,” Jamie Berrout (Strange Horizons) (Short Story)
“The Starship and the Temple Cat,” Yoon Ha Lee (Beneath Ceaseless Skies) (Short Story)

Umberlight, Carolyn Ives Gilman (Clarkesworld) (Novella)
“A Witch’s Guide to Escape: A Practical Compendium of Portal Fantasies,” Alix E. Harrow (Apex) (Short Story)
"The Fisher of Bones," Sarah Gailey (Fireside Magazine) (Novelette)
“Try Looking Ahead,” Jason Rodriguez (Try Looking Ahead, Rosarium Publishing) (Short Story)

I also give some further reading, but I'll let you X-plore that on your own. Cheers!


Monday, February 19, 2018

Quick Sips - Shimmer #41 [February stuff]

The stories from Shimmer Magazine’s February offerings excel in coming from interesting viewpoints. From ghosts of boys who never were and never should have been to bags full of dreams and magic, the character work here involves narrators whose primary function is to accompany someone else. In that these are two excellently paired stories that highlight the ways in which these companions, these burdens, these people relate to those who carry them. And the stories offer two widely different takes on that theme, one of the narrators kind and helpful and loving and the other…well, not so much. The stories show just how much these presences can help the people carrying them, and just how much they can hurt as well. To the reviews!

Art by Sandro Castelli

Friday, February 16, 2018

Quick Sips - Strange Horizons 02/05/2018 & 02/12/2018

February brings a touch of the weird and rather literary to Strange Horizons, and the first two issues each feature a story and a poem that explore violation, bodies, and exposure. For me, the stories have a dense, rather poetic quality to them, the sense of reality bent around metaphor and pain. There's a heavy weirdness to them as well, with people becoming bears, bodies becoming art, and an all around just kind of uncomfortable/icky feel to things (I know icky is like the most literary of terms, right?). But there's a sharpness to the discomfort, an edge to the disturbing that these pieces reveal. And the poems are as always deep and layered and interesting and let's just get to the reviews!

Art by Dan Rempel

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Quick Sips - Nightmare #65

February brings a pair of stories to Nightmare Magazine that deal with violence and with magic and with women. With adaptation in the face of oppression and the threat of violence. It’s a very nicely paired issue that sees characters who change in the face of the difficult environment where misogyny is a force stalking them, hoping to devour them. In both stories, though, women find ways to take a power to themselves, to embrace perhaps a different way of being, a different way of organizing and valuing the world. In both, the pressure begins to become whether or not these women will betray each other, if men can convince them to embrace a system that has only marginalized and destroyed them. They’re not the easiest of reads, poised as they are between erasure and freedom, but I love the resonance of the issue and let’s get to those reviews!

Art by Kevron2001 / Fotolia

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Quick Sips - GigaNotoSaurus February 2018

Perhaps appropriate for the month, GigaNotoSaurus brings a rather romantic piece for its February release. Or, at least, a story very interested in love and trust, hope and freedom. It’s a story that features two very different characters finding a common language, a common purpose, and staying true to each other in order to do something they couldn’t do alone. It’s a touching and beautiful piece, for all that it’s dominated by the weight of captivity and the desire for release. But before I spoil everything, let’s get to the review!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Quick Sips - Clarkesworld #137

February brings four stories to Clarkesworld Magazine (2 short stories, 1 novelette, 1 novella) that explore humanity’s future, its hopes, and its failures. The pieces all explore future in which humanity has suffered great losses. For almost all of them, the loss comes from space, from forces that wreck humanity’s satellite net, or fry all its electronics, or see humanity set up on a distant and hostile world, or just manage to take out one person’s stored data. Whatever the case, the stories look at misfortune and winter, with people who find themselves (through no real fault of their own) living in times they very much would rather have avoided. And showing how they deal with it, how they deal with corruption and with the injustices small and large that plague them. It’s an issue with a lot of action that moves with a power and tight pacing and I should just get to those reviews already!

Art by Artur Sadlos

Monday, February 12, 2018

Regular Sip - Water into Wine by Joyce Chng (Annorlunda Books)

I’m dipping back into looking at longer works today with a review of a novella from Annorlunda Books. It’s my first experience the publisher but not with the author, whose fiction and poetry I’ve read and enjoyed. And in this sweeping piece, war and family, tradition and language are all laid bare and examined. What results is a story gripped by sorrow but refusing to fall into despair. Despite a harrowing series of events, the main character remains steadfast and strong. It’s an luminous read that had me close to tears at numerous points, and before I give too much away, let’s just get to the review!

Friday, February 9, 2018

Quick Sips - Flash Fiction Online February 2018

February brings another themed issue of Flash Fiction Online, and one that I as a speculative fiction reviewer I probably could complain about. It’s a month of literary stories, where the speculative elements are light where they’re present at all. But really, I’m not sad about it. Variety is the spice of life and while I much prefer speculative fiction on the large scale, there’s still a lot to like about literary stories, and these three do a great job of capturing some heavy emotions and tense situations. They are stories that really get at feelings and atmosphere, the prose lyrical and fairly dense but never impenetrable. It’s a bit a departure from my normal reading emphasis, but I’m always up for a bit of a change of pace. To the reviews!

Art by Dario Bijelac

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Quick Sips - Beneath Ceaseless Skies #244

It’s sci-fantasy month at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, which means a trio of stories featuring people and their connections to AI. Indeed, all three of the stories in this issue feature AI, and specifically ships that either developed or were designed to have sentience. These AI all relate back to the characters around them—a ghost cat, the ship’s captain, a former lover—in ways that shed light on the larger situations revealed in these settings. Which, by and large, have to do with conflict, war, and violence. Again, in each of the stories there is a simmering conflict if not outright war, and the characters are tasked with trying to protect what they can, to prevent what they can, and to save what they can from the jaws of destruction and prejudice. The themes show the danger of insular and adversarial thinking, of making the universe into Us against Them, and they do so with magic and with machines, with loss and hope and honesty. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Florent Llamas

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Quick Sips - The Dark #33

The February issue of The Dark Magazine brings a pair of stories that prove that sometimes a person is their own worst enemy. The stories explore the ways that people trap themselves and seek to escape themselves. The way that they want to change, want to grow, and the forces that hold them back. For some, it’s their own hesitation and trauma. For others, it’s the limitations of their setting, poverty keeping them prisoner in a cycle that seeks to devour them. For both the characters, though, it means wading through memory and disgust, hope and anger, as they push toward the unknown, and find a heaping helping of darkness waiting for them. To the reviews!

Art by Vincent Chong

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Quick Sips - Lightspeed #93

February brings a rather philosophical batch of stories to Lightspeed Magazine. These are pieces that explore ideas and concepts like justice, identity, and freedom through a speculative lens. In each, the characters are engaged in some ways against incorporeal threats and harms made tangible. In each, the characters’ struggles take on a weight and power as they engage with these concepts and seek to triumph over them. They are dense and stirring stories that don’t lose their immediacy or intimacy for trading in big ideas. To the reviews!

Art by Sam Schechter

Monday, February 5, 2018

Regular Sip - Pretty Marys All in a Row by Gwendolyn Kiste (Broken Eye Books)

I’m looking at a novella today from Broken Eye Books. It’s I think my first introduction to the press, but based on the piece I definitely hope it's not my last. Fitting strongly into speculative horror, the story features ghosts and roads, love and yearning and loss. The piece is dark and dense at times, a shadow moving across the night, hunting for a receptive mind. At times like this I feel it’s time to turn out the lights and open the door and invite the darkness in, to let it take you where it wants to go, to reveal what it wants to show. It’s not the easiest of reads, featuring grief and loss and a driving hunger, but I think it’s well worth spending some time with, an imaginative and breathtaking story of ghosts, Marys, and fear. So without further delay, let’s get to the review!

Cover Art by gawki, Design by Jeremy Zerfoss

Friday, February 2, 2018

Quick Sips - Tor dot com January 2018

After a light November and a completely absent December, Tor dot com returns in January for a rather long novelette about Hollywood, films, and what might have been. It’s a moving piece about family and about holding to the glamor of illusion, in the hopes that in holding to it there might be some comfort it can bring to a rather bleak reality. The story mixes history and alt-history, reality and alt-reality, and it makes for a strange but compelling read. Before I give too much away, though, to the review!

Art by Dadu Shin

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Quick Sips - Fireside Magazine January 2018

It’s a rather packed start to 2018 at Fireside Magazine, which sort of goes against its url a bit in dipping into some poetry this month. With five short stories, a poem, and the final chapter in the gripping and wrenching novelette that’s been playing out the last few months, there’s a lot to take in, and the works range from speculative takes on the future of genetic manipulation and identity to fantasy worlds ruled by cruel gods to a literary examination of immigration and vulnerability. Basically, the works cover a lot of ground, united by their sharp gaze and moving styles, not by their tone or subjects. Taken as a whole, it’s a group of works that find a nice balance, some fun and sweet, some pitch black and difficult. So yeah, let’s get to the reviews!

Art by Tesslyn B